Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Movies of 2010

Not really. This list isn't necessarily of the best movies (I didn't see every movie released and some on my list I wouldn't even recommend watching). It also isn't strictly a 2010 list (one movie on it was released in 1938). What it is, is a list of movies I've watched this year that I think are worthy of being remembered.

After the jump, the list, in no particular order, along with my Twitter review for each.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best Plays of 2010

Not really. More like Best Plays and Concerts and other Live Performances of 2010. But it's not a list of the best, either. It's more like a list of those live performances that I happened to see in 2010. Still, it's traditional to do a "best of ..." list at the end of the year, so that's the title I'm going with.

After the jump, the list along with my Twitter review for each.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Books of 2010

Not really. This list isn't necessarily of the best books (some I wouldn't even recommend reading). It also isn't strictly a 2010 list (one book on it was written fifty years ago). What it is, is a list of books I've read this year that I think are worthy of being remembered.

After the jump, the list along with my Twitter review for each.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Say Goodbye to Nonpartisan City Elections

You just thought the election was over. No, in our era of perpetual elections, there's always another election just around the corner. In our case, it's the Richardson City Council election of May, 2011. Today, we hear the starting pistol for that race sound in a story by Ian McCann in The Dallas Morning News. The candidates in the race are likely to be wearing team uniforms this time.

After the jump, an early look at the partisan outlines of the race.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Community Gardens Are Coming to Richardson

Community garden

No, that's not right. Community gardens are already in Richardson. Three are owned and operated by Richardson East Church of Christ, First United Methodist Church and The Epiphany Episcopal Church. So, what's coming to Richardson? Apparently, only a proposal for the city to pay for water for these community gardens. (See city's proposal here and The Dallas Morning News story here.)

After the jump, my thoughts.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What's Wrong With This Macy's Ad?

Macy's Ad

Hint #1: it's not the woman. (It never is.)
Hint #2: it's not Macy's secularization of Christmas. (Still, don't tell Jeffress.)
Hint #3: click on the ad for a close-up detail. (Spoiler alert.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best Congress in a Half Century

The 111th Congress winds up its work in Washington, the most productive Congress in a half century.

  • Federal stimulus bill, including large tax cuts
  • American auto industry rescue
  • Children's health insurance
  • Health insurance reform
  • 9/11 first responders aid package
  • Wall Street reform
  • Credit card reform
  • Creation of Consumer Financial Protection Agency
  • Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" discrimination in our military
  • Nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia

If the 112th Congress does half as well, Americans will be well-served. Here's wishing for a happy 2011.

Locally, our Richardson City Council is also winding down on its own two year term, which ends in May, 2011. It also has been a very productive one so far.

  • Open and transparent government initiatives
    • Televising city council meetings
    • Code of Ethics for City Council members
    • Online checkbook for the city
  • Bond program for streets, parks, municipal buildings
  • Progress on West Spring Valley corridor redevelopment
  • Progress on Bush Station development

If the city can keep the momentum on these last two items before its term ends in May, it will be one of the most productive city councils in my memory. Here's wishing for a happy 2011 locally, too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DART Is Packing Them In

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
-- Yogi Berra, on why he no longer went to Ruggeri's, a St. Louis restaurant

Rodger Jones, editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News, Richardson resident and regular DART Red Line passenger, has been sounding like Yogi Berra recently in his regular complaints about how crowded his DART Red Line train is (see here, here, here, and here). For example:

"For the record, people were standing on my Red Line before we got out of Richardson this morning, Me included. We never got smashed in like sardines as we headed south, but I'm on the early end of the rush hour and don't know what it's like in the thick of it. ... If we ever get close to that, DART will lose loyal Red Line passengers for sure."
Shorter Rodger Jones: Nobody rides DART anymore. It's too crowded.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice in Texas (2010)

From Flowers

The seasons are late in north Texas. It's 80 degrees and autumn leaves are still in glorious color even though the calendar declares it's the Winter Solstice.

"The winter solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun. The 2010 winter solstice will occur on December 21, at 5:38 pm Central Standard Time. This occurs on the shortest day, and longest night, and the sun's daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest.

"Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time."

-- Adapted from Wikipedia

"... holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time." It's a busy week or two in almost anyone's social calendar.

So, Merry-Kitzmas-Happy-Winter-Solstice-Happy-Festivus-Merry-Christmas-Happy-Kwanzaa-Happy-New-Year, everyone!

Too bad there isn't a one or two-word greeting that people of goodwill could use to mean all that, a greeting that would include all of these holidays and more, a greeting to extend warm wishes to everyone at this time of year. Someone should invent such a greeting.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shameful Sesquicentennial

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the end of slavery, the most abominable stain on American history. One hundred fifty years ago Christmas Eve, on December 24, 1860, the government of South Carolina declared its secession from the United States of America. You might think this would be an anniversary to be marked by a day of atonement or at least by a vigil remembering the lives and deaths of those who suffered in slavery or died to end it. You would be wrong.

On December 20, 2010, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is holding a $100-per-person celebration, a "Secession Gala", in Charleston, South Carolina. Organizer Jeff Antley says, "It has nothing to do with slavery as far as I'm concerned. What I'm doing is honoring the men from this state who stood up for their self-government and their rights under law -- the right to secede was understood."

Nothing to do with slavery. It's about honoring heritage, not racism. Expect a lot of that shameful rationalization over the next five years, as white Southerners revise history in an attempt to whitewash the original sin of America, slavery, from their heritage.

After the jump, a closer look at the declaration of causes for South Carolina's secession.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Give 'em Hell, Schutze

Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer is the best thing going in Dallas journalism. (I did say Dallas, not the suburbs, where Schutze's perspective is sometimes cockeyed. And I didn't say north Texas, where even old columns by Molly Ivins, now dead and gone, are still the sharpest writing around. But Schutze rules Dallas journalism.) He does the old-fashioned legwork, digs out the facts, takes nothing at face value, especially the self-serving statements of politicians, then writes up the story, pulling no punches. Exhibit A: Schutze's description of the Texas Railroad Commission:

"the Railroad Commission is a sleazy rogue body without an ounce of moral or political credibility that cannot be trusted to protect the public."

Ouch. After the jump, what led Schutze to that conclusion.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Keeping Score on the RISD Bond Election

Wildcat-Ram Stadium Scoreboard

The Richardson school district (RISD) is putting together its Christmas wish list, or rather, its capital needs list for a possible bond election in Spring 2011. You know, all the things you need to run a school system like heating and a/c, electrical and plumbing systems, security systems, paint for the walls, tar for the roofs, computer systems for the classrooms, science equipment for the labs, etc., etc. I trust the administrators and school board members will be fiscally responsible and do the right thing for Richardson's parents, students, and taxpayers. The RISD has set a goal of limiting the bond size so there would be no tax increase.

After the jump, my one niggling concern.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Holidays, Youse

I remember growing up in the 1950s when "Happy Holidays" was in common use as a shorthand way of wishing people "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." Shorthand. That's all. Trust me, there was no intent to elbow Jesus aside in order to be politically correct or multi-culturally sensitive. There were no Muslims or Jews or Kwanzaa-celebrating African-Americans in my social circle, or anyone's social circle in my ethnically pure hometown in the 1950s. The biggest cultural divide was between the Irish Catholics and the German Catholics.

It's a shame that Robert Jeffress, the Grinch at First Baptist Church of Dallas, now insists on misinterpreting my friendly greeting of "Happy Holidays" and spoiling my warm memories of childhood. The growing insistence that I and others use the greeting of "Merry Christmas" in order not to offend him or other sensitive Christians is a demand for political correctness itself. There's irony in that. But, hey, at the heart of political correctness is a desire to avoid giving offense, an attitude very much in the Christmas spirit. So, Merry Christmas, y'all, even the Grinches at First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Response to Concerns about US75/PGBT Development

US75 and PGBT

A high-end, mixed-use development is planned for 140 acres south of President George Bush Turnpike on both sides of US 75 in Richardson. Opposition is arising from a self-organized group calling itself the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (recently discussed here).

After the jump, a look at NPAR's concerns.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Not Your Average Load of Apartments

The Great Recession, the housing crash, the commercial real estate slump, the state budget deficit, none of that is stopping Richardson from moving forward. NIMBY attitudes just might.

"The City Plan Commission heard a presentation this week that proposes a mixed-use development in a part of town that has been planning for such a project for the past 13 years. ... The project would be built on nearly 140 acres of undeveloped property that lies on both sides of US 75 south of the Bush Turnpike. ... The City’s 2000 Comprehensive Planning Guide, following community input and ratification by the City Plan Commission and City Council, designated the area for mixed-use transit-oriented development. Earlier this year the City was approached by the area property owners with a plan to create a high-end mixed-use development -- with features similar to Watters Creek in Allen, West Village in Dallas or Legacy Town Center in Plano."

-- "Week in Review", December 10, 2010

Of all that, you know what was heard by the reflexive critics of the city council, don't you? "Our city leaders want a load of apartments built on prime land in Richardson near Central and Bush."

After the jump, a look at Watters Creek and Legacy Town Center.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Imagine the world a thousand years from now. Go ahead, I'll wait. What did you come up with? A Jetsons' world with flying cars and moon colonies or a Mad Max post-apocalyptic world of violent gangs looting what's left of civilization? Those are the two most common visions.

After the jump, the outlook by Michael Ruppert, former cop and now an independent writer and the subject of a 2009 documentary titled "Collapse." Hint: the title gives away which vision of the future Ruppert holds. ;-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How Not to Deal With Computer Viruses

I found an email in my spam folder this morning. I don't recommend following its advice on how to deal with a computer virus, but its unintended humor did prompt me to post it here, so that part of the spammer's plan worked, I guess.

After the jump, the spammer's email.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Richardson Is Now Transparent

This month, the City of Richardson has started putting the city's check register online. Checks issued by the city, including payee, amount and short description of the goods and services being paid for are now available for public perusal.

This is the third of three major initiatives that the City Council committed to as part of its goals. All three were issues in the council election in 2009, when all the winning candidates expressed support for more open and transparent government. The other two commitments were to televise city council meetings and to adopt a code of ethics. The council previously delivered on both of these promises.

Links to all of Richardson's efforts at improved government transparency can be found on the city's website at Good job, council.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Untraditional American Values in Farmers Branch

There is no Farmers Branch school district. But that could change if the mayor of Farmers Branch, Tim O'Hare, has his way. He's exploring whether the city of Farmers Branch can withdraw from both the Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Dallas Independent School Districts and form its own school district. (Read The Dallas Morning News stories here and here.)

After the jump, what triggered the mayor of Farmers Branch to involve himself in the public schools? Hint: it has something to do with "traditional American values." That's code for it has something to do with Hispanics.

Signs of Opposition to Development at US75 and PGBT

Fresh off their victory (?) over the rebuilding and expansion of the Lookout Drive trash transfer station, the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (NPAR) has focused its attention on the planned development for the open land southeast of the US 75 and the President George Bush Tollway (PGBT). In an email blast (I can't find it on the group's website to link to), NPAR Chair Maitri Smithhisler rallied the neighbors to attend a City Planning Commission meeting Tuesday Dec 7th, at 7PM at City Hall, at which it will be considering the Parliament planned development for the open land.

Now, I'm all in favor of grassroots involvement in civic matters such as this, even if I fear that a reflexive NIMBY attitude is likely to prevail. Smithhisler's email suggests that risk is real in this case, although I'm encouraged by the appearance of an open mind: "Please note: while the significant traffic increase, the massive apartment presence and the form-based code pose great concern, there are many aspects to this development that preliminarily look positive."

Hey, it's the corner of an 8-lane freeway and an 8-lane tollway, with a DART station in the middle and another rail line, the Cotton Belt, on the drawing boards. If that's not tailor-made for high-density development - offices, apartments, retail -- what is? The increased tax base will help pay for those parks and rec centers and trails that everyone else in Richardson likes so much. This kind of development should come as a surprise only to the most clueless home buyers for about the last 20 years. And form-based code is a plus. It's what enables mixed-use and reduces the need for people to use cars to get from a neighborhood zoned residential to a neighborhood zoned commercial. If you want to free Richardson from its shackles to the automobile, support form-based zoning.

So, let's hope that Smithhisler's open mind is genuine and that she can persuade other homeowners to keep an open mind, too.

P.S. My earlier post with comments on the subject, comparing it to another development in downtown Dallas, can be read here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

OTBR: The Parthenon in Nashville

Latitude: 36.1450 N
Longitude: 86.8100 W

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Richardson Santa's Village

From 2010 12 Santas Village

"A heart-warming event for the young and young at heart.....where all of the sights and sounds of the holiday season can be enjoyed! Santa's Village features a variety of dwellings, each with a different activity, and live entertainment on stage."

Santa's Village is located in front of the Richardson City Hall, and will be open from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m., Saturday - Sunday, December 4 - 5, Thursday - Sunday, December 9 - 12, and Thursday - Sunday, December 16 - 19, 2010.

To see more photos from Santa's Village, look here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Is Texas Too Business Friendly?

Steve Blow (yes, the folksy Metro columnist of The Dallas Morning News) provoked a political debate yesterday with a column asking whether Texas was *too* business-friendly. He points out that Texas ranks 49 out of 50 states in tax revenue per capita but is near the bottom of the rankings in public school quality, clean air and health care.

I know, it sounds blasphemous for a Texan to suggest it's possible to be *too* business friendly, doesn't it? But Steve Blow tossed the question out there anyway, trolling for bites. After the jump, did his bait attract any fish?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Is Mathematics a Divine Language?

Is mathematics a divine language? That's the provocative question posed by Mark Vernon in an article in the Big Questions Online blog.

Readers may remember that editing BQO is the gig of Rod Dreher, former editorial board member of The Dallas Morning News. I assume he's still at BQO, but it's hard to say for sure because someone at the Templeton Foundation dropped the cone of silence over Dreher last summer after he posted several articles about the construction of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan. (Dreher took the anti-Muslim position, naturally.) The ability of readers to comment on BQO articles was shut off at the same time. Because BQO doesn't allow me (or anyone else, for that matter) to comment on Mark Vernon's article on the BQO website, I'll do so here. :-)

After the jump, is mathematics a divine language?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Twitter Tracks: Football, Marching Bands and More

Twitter tracks from November, 2010:

  • 2010 11 01 - Lots of people interested in finding out about George M. Clayton. Too late, I'm afraid. Schoolchildren could have used you last March.
  • 2010 11 01 - Northwestern’s opinion of getting picked for the Jan 1 Dallas Football Classic bowl game. "Lord have mercy; please, no!"
  • 2010 11 01 - Rally To Restore Sanity is already paying dividends: Headline: "Keith Olbermann Suspends 'Worst Person' Segment"
  • 2010 11 02 - Today's the day. UIL State marching contest. Representing DFW ... "Berkner. Duncanville. Bell. Marcus. All are giants."
  • 2010 11 02 - The forecast is for conditions to be cold, wet and inhospitable to man or beast. The weather ain't so good, either.
  • 2010 11 02 - Berkner's Mighty Ram Band has qualified for tonight's Finals competition at UIL State marching contest in San Antonio. "Blow my face off."
  • 2010 11 03 - Kudos to Marcus (1), Bell (2), Duncanville (3), Coppell (5), Hebron (6), Berkner (8) for representing DFW well at UIL State marching contest
  • 2010 11 03 - "The only surprise election night was that [Texas Gov. Rick Perry] didn't give his acceptance speech in Iowa." -- Glenn Smith.
  • 2010 11 03 - Likely? How about definitely? Headline: "Huge GOP majority in Texas House likely dooms transportation funding increase."
  • 2010 11 04 - @DalArtsDistrict and @WalkableDFW are talking. That's something at least. Right?

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.